ALTOONA, Pa (WTAJ)– Many veterans had their hearts filled at the Altoona Veterans Day Parade. They were greeted by hundreds of community members who expressed thanks and sincere gratitude.
The parade began at 10:30 Saturday in Downtown Altoona. They traveled around that area and ended at the Robert E. Laws Veterans Mall on 11th Avenue.
The parade featured over 60 units consisting of organizations based out of Altoona and the Blair County area. Besides the different organizations, there was also a handful of veterans among those floats.
Commander of Catholic War Veteran Post 691, Michael McDonough, comes year after year to the parade. As a veteran himself, he says it’s heartwarming seeing the crowds grow. McDonough served in the late 60s in missile deployment.
“It’s a joy to see the veterans out,” McDonough said. “We’ve been doing it for years and years, and it’s very heartwarming.”
Following the parade was a ceremony featuring patriotic music and speakers extending their appreciation to the veterans. The Altoona Area High School Chorus performed the National Anthem and God Bless America.
Shaun Shenk was the keynote speaker for the ceremony. Shenk served in the Iraq War and now works for VA Hospital in Altoona. He says traditions like these make the community and veterans even closer.
“I love doing things like this because it really demonstrates the connection between the veterans and their community,” Shenk said.
Shenk began his speech by asking the question, ‘What is a Veteran?’ For Shenk, that is a question he asks himself every day but doesn’t have a clear answer. From the other veterans he’s talked with, they don’t share similar answers as he thought.
“We all view it differently,” Shenk said. “We view our obligation differently, so I always ask what is a veteran and what is our obligation. Our obligation is far past than when we wear the uniform; it continues to grow.”
Shenk says that this parade also serves as a ‘welcome home’ gesture. He emphasizes in his speech that some veterans do not come back home with all cheers. McDonough also agrees with that statement and says that ceremonies and parades complete the service.
“So, I always try to do that in my speeches, and I try to make sure that the community recognizes that there’s a group of veterans that didn’t come home to applause and claps,” Shenk said.
“It means a lot,” McDonough said. “A lot of the veterans that came back from overseas and so on, they never really got thanked. This is a heartwarming thankful to them for their service.”
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